The Bible itself turns out to be the best guidebook on how to contextualize and accommodate in evangelism.
Here are a few points we can draw from this:
- Jesus is Paul’s pattern for a kind of freedom that becomes the servant of all in order to save. In this mindset, motivated by love, we sacrifice our rights, preferences, and comforts, and redirect our resources and freedoms to evangelize.
- We tend to think “being all things to all people” has much to do with technique, but Paul shows us it is more about character. Changes in both technique and character are necessary.
- “Being all things to all men” is more about removing stumbling blocks to the gospel than adding elements that make us sound fashionable and popular to contemporaries.
- “Being all things to all men” has in mind the weak within the church as well as the unbelievers without.
- We can step into the world of other faiths, cultures, theologies, and the like, in order to bring them the truth of the gospel, but we should not become like them in their think- ing; we do it for the sake of the gospel. When the gospel is threatened, Paul focuses less on accommodation and more on defense of the truth (Gal. 1:10).
- We must avoid being wrongly influenced by people we are trying to engage; we can be informed about their cultural milieu without letting that change our theology or methods.
- The Bible itself turns out to be the best guidebook on how to contextualize and accommodate in evangelism.
- Paul uses the past tense of “made myself a slave” and “I have become”; this points to a moment in the past when he decided never to let anything become a stumbling block to the gospel. Thus, Paul can motivate people to follow suit by pointing both to Christ and His truth, and to Paul’s own actions—this is how he lived, not only how he talked.
- Paul preached a thoroughly Jewish gospel message to the Athenians (in the sense of his reliance on the core biblical themes). There are elements of the gospel message that can- not change—this is the “full counsel of God” (WLC 159); and there are more flexible non-essential themes and concepts that we might lean more heavily upon depending on our audience.
- The Bible’s history and doctrine of salvation is that the creator God is fulfilling His covenant promises to restore His kingdom in the world by saving sinners through His amazing grace in Christ Jesus by the Spirit. We must never lose the Scripture’s own history and theological understanding of the way of salvation in preaching the gospel, for then, we will have lost the gospel.
PURITAN REFORMED JOURNAL
Volume 13, Number 2 • July 2021
Becoming All Things to All: Implications for Accommodation in Evangelism
By Joel Beeke